Yesterday the wife and I went to our local T-Mobile store with a view to upgrading our phones as I had an almost three year old Samsung Exhibit and my wife had a rather smashed up Galaxy Exhibit [II]. Upon arriving we were greeted by a salesman called Lucas Awesome (probably not his real last name) but he was cool and offered us a deal we couldn’t turn down, we both walked out of the store with a Samsung Galaxy S4, which is as good as smartphones get at this moment in time. Paid $282.92 down-payment and we’ll pay the rest at $40 per month, $20 for each S4 over two years and best of all, our monthly bill before adding the credit payment has gone down $20 and we now get unlimited minutes/texts and 500MB data each! We walked out of the store very happy people!
So the phone itself, it seems huge with it’s 5″ screen compared to my 3.5″ Exhibit screen, but the overall size of the phone is kept minimal by the thin bezel around the screen, but the downside to this is that it’s easy to hit the back or menu button accidentally while using the phone.
Build quality is excellent, it feels solid and despite having a shiny back cover, it doesn’t easily slide out of the hand; unlike my wife’s old Galaxy Exhibit, it’s an all plastic construction with silver effect band around the side of the bezel, I chose the ‘Black Mist’ model over the white! I was expecting it to feel clunky but it feels good in my hand although a little hard to use one handed, especially if you’re right handed, the capacitive back button gets hit frequently unless I use both hands.
The second thing you notice is the amount of bloatware that comes pre-installed, but unlike previous Samsung phones I’ve owned, it’s possible to ‘freeze’ the majority of these apps without needing to root the phone; but I went ahead and rooted the phone to remove even more apps that I will never use, all the Samsung and T-Mobile apps were first to go except ‘My Account’ which is actually useful! I used Titanium Backup to backup all the files, although I didn’t delete, I froze the apps so their easy to recover should I decide I want any of the frozen apps defrosted in the future!
The phone is very quick and smooth with it’s quad core 1.9Ghz processor and 2GB of RAM, the only time I noticed any lag is when installing multiple apps simultaneously. The interface is clean and easy to use for people that have previously used Android devices, everything is fairly intuitive.
Phone call quality is excellent, calls sounded rich and full bodied, the built in speaker is a little weak but sufficient in most cases, texting and Email is like any Android device, straight forward and easy to understand. I used the Gmail client instead of the built-in Email functionality.
Battery life is very good for a smartphone this size, after the initial charge overnight, the phone is now saying “connect your charger”, which shows up when there is 20% battery life remaining, 26 hours after it was last charged. Samsung claim 28 hours of average usage, which seems to ring true, as I write this I still have 19% battery life remaining, I’m very impressed by the battery performance.
Overall, the Galaxy S4 [T-Mobile version] is as good as the adverts and reviews suggest, it’s fast, it’s got a good balanced screen size, 5″ seems to work well, it looks good and should keep you happy for at least two years, if you’re budget can stretch this far, then I recommend getting this phone, but at $580 + tax it doesn’t come cheap, of course you could go for the SII or SIII to save some $$$ and still get an excellent phone, but T-Mobile do have great financing deals to help you!
Tip: If you want to extend battery life, make sure you disable Latitude in the Google Maps application, you’ll find that it’ll use upto 30% of your battery life despite not actively using Google Maps. To disable, launch Google Maps, press the capacitive menu button and select ‘settings’, then ‘location settings’, uncheck ‘location reporting’ and ‘report from this device’, Google Maps battery usage should now drop to zero. My Galaxy S4 has been on for 17 hours and used only 20% battery.